After graduating from the Naval Academy in 1996 and completing the Marine Corps’ Basic School and Naval Flight School, Jenna became the first woman to fly the AV-8B Harrier in combat. Here’s her story:
Jenna grew up on the shores of a lake in St. Paul, MN. She is the youngest of four children. She inherited her love of flying from her oldest brother and her father who were both Marine Corps pilots. Jenna attended Visitation High School and spent her after school hours doing gymnastics, waterskiing, snow skiing and playing the piano.
Jenna was appointed to the United States Naval Academy in 1992 and was graduated with a B.S in Mathematics in 1996. While at the Naval Academy, Jenna was a member of the Women’s Swimming and Diving team – diving 1 meter & 3 meter springboard and 10 meter tower (beating Army all 4 years!). Since 10 meter just wasn’t high enough, Jenna began skydiving during her last year at school.
Upon graduation, Jenna was commissioned a 2ndLt in the United States Marine Corps, attended The Basic School for Marine officers in Quantico, VA, and then moved to Pensacola to begin flight training in the T-34C Mentor. She did well enough to be selected for jets and left Pensacola for Meridian, MS for training in the T-2C Buckeye and the T-45C Goshawk.
After completing flight training and earning her “wings” in 1999, Jenna transferred to MCAS Cherry Point, NC for training in the AV-8B Harrier. After training, she was assigned to VMA-542 and went on to be the first woman to fly the Harrier in combat, including two tours to Iraq. She has flown over 120 combat missions, most of them at night. During her first deployment, Jenna was based on the USS Bataan and flew missions during the “Shock & Awe” campaign of 2003. During her second combat deployment, she was the Weapons and Tactics Instructor for VMA-542 based at Al Asad air base, in Al Anbar province.
The year after graduating from the Academy, Jenna met her husband, Matt, skydiving – actually hanging outside a King Air at 15,000 feet. Jenna and Matt have continued to do adventure sports together ever since – mountain biking, scuba diving, motor cycle racing and even skydiving onto the beach in front of the famous Flora-Bama lounge near Pensacola, FL. Jenna and Matt have two children, Sean and Lara, and live on the ocean in Marblehead, MA.
In addition to flying with Team SHAR, Jenna flies at her local airport in Beverly, MA. She has over 1200 hours in multiple aircraft, including nearly 900 hours in the Harrier and is type-rated in the L-39. She still serves in the Marine Corps Reserves, augmenting Marine Corps recruiters throughout the eastern U.S.